Saturday, 30 April 2016

Booktrope Closure

At about ten o’clock last night I was pretty smug with myself. I’d spent the day working on the latest edits for my next book and I’d spent the last hour doing a #writestorm with a couple of my favourite authors, managing to get within a chapter or two of finishing my third book. All of this was set against a backdrop of good sales for April, another successful promotion for The Running Game, and lots of ambition and planning for the future.

By eleven my world, and the worlds of many others, turned on its head when we received the shock announcement that Booktrope, my publishing company would close with effect from 31 May 2016. This means that my second book Border Lines will not be published with them and that they will unpublish The Running Game at the end of May. Like many I absorbed the news in a state of despair, confusion, and anger.

I worked solidly on my own for four years, working on self-publishing and building a reputation and portfolio that would appeal to publishers. After less than a year the achievement I have made is now being reset. Or is it? I’m seeing a lot of confused authors out there – hell I’m one of them and we’re having to contend with a mixture of feelings and apprehensions. But we need to look at this as not a step backwards, but a dodge to the side.

If, like me, Booktrope was your first publishing company (and the only publishing company that I am with under L E Fitzpatrick), the rug has been pulled from under our feet and we are in free fall. But is this so uncommon an occurrence that we have any right to feel hurt and shocked? Small publishing houses are closing all the time, we’re in an economic downturn, and this is not about art, this is about business. It’s a horrible situation for authors and team members involved in the production of the projects – they are all hard working dedicated individuals who will suffer because this company is closing. But businesses go bust all the time and the one consolation for many of us is that we can still take our books and self-publish.

In light of what has happened I think it’s also important to evaluate my position with Booktrope and what they provided to get me where I am to fully comprehend what I have lost. Aside from the prestige of being with a recognised publisher which would allow me to advertise with certain organisations such as the Thrillers Writer’s Association (which I volunteer for anyway), what – dare I say it – has Booktrope ever done for me?

Firstly they provided me with a team of professionals to work on my book. Jessica, Ashley, Majanka, Cindy, and Bella, all helped reshape The Running Game into the story it is now. All these girls have also just lost their jobs with Booktrope. I know that some of them work privately and those that do will forever have my business because I believe in their talent and abilities. Those that don’t, may decide to and will also always have my support. Aside from putting me in touch with these awesome ladies, the hard work was all their own and there is every chance we will work together again and possibly more to their benefit and mine.

After that they provided me with some promotion which I would in turn pay out of future royalties. At the same time I have also paid and set up my own promotion which has been more successful and which I paid for upfront from my own pocket anyway. My main success came from Bookbub, who I discovered through Booktrope, but was only eligible because I had so many reviews (over 30) and this I achieved before I even signed with the label. In fact I put all this down to my indie marketer Alina at Eyes on Books. I could do Bookbub on my own and I will do.

So aside from prestige what have I lost? And even with returning to self-publishing (because in the short term that is my only option for my Reacher series) is the “publisher” name all that important? I know my MS is of publishing house quality, I know my cover is amazing. I know the work I continue to put in will match or even exceed that of Booktrope. My reviews are good and plentiful, my exposure so far is far reaching and consistent. I’m also beginning to learn that going alone provides you with security and stability. I am in control, not only of my books but my career. I gain a bigger percentage of my royalties and, in theory, I have a lot less legal issues to deal with. Maybe, just maybe this is a good thing. Or at the very least I can make it a good thing.

Right now I know there are hundreds of Booktrope authors and team members trying to work out what to do and where they stand. I know this because last night and this morning I’ve been talking to lots them publically and privately. I’ve even been talking to other authors and publishers not affiliated with Booktrope who are as shocked by these events as I am. And there has been a consistent trend. We are not alone. The supportive messages I got today are undoubtedly just a fraction of what authors are getting across the world, and these words of encouragement need to be our fuel for moving forward. This is our passion, our very reason for getting up in the morning, and a business has no right to destroy that for us. So don’t let it.

Over the course of the next four weeks there will be talks and tribulations but there will be an outcome and it is up to us as authors, as editors, as proofreaders, as designers, and managers to make it the best it can be. Hell, set your sights high and make it even better than it ever could have been with Booktrope.